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21/02/02 Bel Esprit Even Hotter for Diamond after Draw
r2belesprit.jpg (11812 bytes)The chances of boom Victorian colt Bel Esprit continuing his unbeaten run in Saturday's $1 million AAMI Blue Diamond Stakes have been boosted after the sensational youngster drew a perfect barrier this morning.

The John Symons trained colt was already a hot odds-on favourite for Saturday's feature event at Caulfield, but after being alloted barrier three his chances seemed to have been further enhanced.

Over the weekend there was major speculation that the colt had gone amiss in training but the rumours have been squashed by the stable.

"We've been hounded by the press over the weekend telling us he'd broken down," Macedon Lodge's John Symons said.

r2belesprit3.jpg (9489 bytes)"But there's absolutely nothing wrong with him. In fact he couldn't be better going into Saturday," he added.

The Bel Esprit story is very much like a fairytale. For connections it certainly is as everything has gone to plan.

A bad-legged yearling the colt by Royal Academy was entered in the Inglis Classic Yearling Sale in Sydney just over a year ago.

It was Symons who found the youngster when he was inspecting a large draft of yearlings for Macedon Lodge. Although the colt did have noticably bad legs and seemed to throw his forelegs in a strange style it didn't both Symons.

"He was just such a striking type. Sure his legs weren't that great but then again there's been so many great horses in the past with bad legs and problems, so I wasn't really that worried," Symons recalls.

The strong colt cost Symons only $9,000. The colt is owned by a wide cross section of men. One of the owners is none other that brilliant AFL coach Kevin Sheedy, the man who leads Victoria's current premier side Essendon.

r2wtreloar.jpg (8848 bytes)There was a big wrap on the colt when he made his long awaited debut at Moonee Valley in a listed race on Cox Plate Day. While most of the crowd was there to see the clash between Sunline, Northerly, Universal Prince and Silvano in the Cox Plate, it was Symons who was champing at the bit to see just how his youngster would run earlier in the day.

Bel Esprit's win was never in doubt. Quickly jumping to the front of the field he dashed clear of his rivals and set up a big break before cruising home under the soft hands of veteran jockey Wayne "Smokey" Treloar.

"Smokey," who does most of the riding for Macedon Lodge, has been on the colt at every start since and he will again partner the exitement machine on Saturday.

It was off to Group class next for the colt and the most famous track in Australia, fabulous Flemington. There's no better time in racing that November and the Cup Carnival at Flemington and Bel Esprit was to make another big impression by scoring his second effortless win from as many starts.

Given an eleven week break the colt wasn't seen at the track until he annihilated a Group class field in the Blue Diamond Preview at his first run at Caulfield - the scene of Saturday's big one. Never getting out of second gear the performance made even the seasoned racegoer shake their head in disbelief.

r2belesprit2.jpg (9948 bytes)While the final 200 metres of any race a trainer can get very excited when their charge maybe going to be in the finish, it wasn't the case for Symons when the colt streaked clear of his rivals in the Preview. There was no need for cheering, all Symons did was sit back and relax in his cheer and clap his charge to a four and a half length slaughter.

The final lead up for the million dollar event for the colts and geldings is tradionally the Diamond Prelude a fortnight before the feature event. Symons wasn't sure whether the Prelude would be a required race for his star, but after assessing his fitness it was decided Bel Esprit would have another run.

Another run! Goodness me it was nothing more than a track gallop. Despite never seeming comfortable in the wet and sticky conditions, Bel Esprit never got out of first gear cruising home to win by a length and a half. Had it not been for Treloar's boot being firmly on the brake the effort of the second placegetter Cool Trent would not have looked so impressive. Put simply the one and a half length margin could easily have been five!

r2belesprit.jpg (7283 bytes)Never before has a horse had such of a boom going into the Diamond since the champion juvenile Rancher did when he lined up in the 1200 metre event in 1982.

As history now shows Rancher proved the good judges right back 20 years ago by scoring an effortless win and Bel Esprit is set to do likewise in 2002.

If there is one word to currently describe this excitement machine from Macedon Lodge it is simply "unbeatable." And Saturday should further enhance that huge wrap.

PICS - Quentin Lang.

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